Centers for Disease Control and Prevention photo
May is National Nurses Month, a reminder of the essential services that nurses have always provided, but especially during the pandemic, which has been so stressful that many have left the profession.
To address the nursing shortage in Kentucky, the General Assembly passed a bill that has both short-term and long-term solutions, but the Kentucky Nurses Association and its school-nurse task force aren’t happy with it.
“If anyone thinks the nursing shortage in Kentucky was addressed by the governor or the legislature during this current session, they are certainly misguided. At best, it has been window dressing by the governor and an attempted appeasement by the legislature to show they were doing something for nursing,” Lois Davis, Pat Burkhart and Carol Komara, members of the KNA school nurse task force, wrote in an op-ed.
In a separate statement, the nurses’ association said: “Despite the herculean efforts of the Kentucky Nurses Association and nurse leaders across the state that included lobbying, a massive letter-writing campaign, a statewide press conference, state and national news coverage and multiple testimonies in front of lawmakers, Kentucky’s budget did not include any of KNA’s detailed $100 million ask to combat the critical nursing shortage in the commonwealth.”
Delanor Manson, the association’s chief executive officer, said in a news release, “While we are devastated by this development, National Nurses Month gives us the opportunity to show our appreciation for nurses by letting them know we will not waver in our commitment to recruiting and retaining more Kentucky nurses.”
Manson added that the association will pursue other funding streams and collaborative relationships, calling on businesses, industries and regional organizations to contribute to the cause. KNA says Kentucky will need an additional 16,000 nurses by 2024.
“We encourage all Kentucky residents to reach out to their lawmakers now to solidify relationships that will help us secure funding in the 2023 session and beyond,” Manson said. “The conversation about this critical issue must continue – lives are depending on it.”
KNA says the association’s initial recommendations included “securing private grants, corporate sponsorships for nurse retention bonuses, nursing scholarships and emeritus programs to entice retired nurses to re-enter the profession. In addition, KNA leaders invite organizations dedicated to workplace safety to provide funding and collaborative programming to benefit nurses and those in their care.”
Senate Bill 10
, sponsored by Sen. Robbie Mills, R-Henderson, and Senate President Robert Stivers, R-Manchester, is designed to help out-of-state and foreign-trained nurses to practice in Kentucky without compromising standards of care; improve access to nursing education by removing “arbitrary” enrollment limits, without compromising the quality of the programs; and adding term limits and geographic requirements for the state Board of Nursing
After pointing to the impact of the pandemic on nursing staffing, and education and the verbal praise they received by the governor and the legislators for their sacrifice, the school-nurse task force also criticized the legislature’s lack of funding to decrease the nursing shortage in Kentucky.
“Did our governor or the legislature think it might need to show some appreciation to nurses by allocating some of the Covid dollars to assist with retention of those tireless professionals?” they asked. “No. Instead, their solution was to recruit nurses from other states and foreign territories through licensure endorsement with minimum requirements. Did they not have the foresight to recognize that there are approximately 89,000 licensed nurses in the state of Kentucky and that, with some creative efforts, could recruit some that are licensed but not currently practicing?”
The task force said incentive scholarships could have been have been created to attract more nurses into practice, and into higher education as nursing faculty. Or, they wrote, money could have been allocated to provide a nurse in every school, all day, every day.
“Instead, the legislature created SB 10 and the governor signed it, shifting the burden and responsibility for alleviating the nursing shortage to the Kentucky Board of Nursing,” they write. “To declare an emergency during a pandemic and then try to solve it by increasing enrollment for the future, without funding, is both a simplistic and unrealistic solution.”
KNA’s school-nurse task force said Gov. Andy Beshear and legislators failed to listen to qualified nursing representatives on the governor-appointed task force, “who provided an in-depth analysis and offered realistic solutions to the nursing shortage. Instead, they chose to rush their decisions and legislate another unfunded mandate, SB10, without allocating any funding to combat the nursing shortage.”
Burkhart, Davis and Komara wrote, “The public needs to stand in support of the nursing profession. Your vote counts in every election.”
Not only is this month National Nurses Month, May 6-12 is National Nurses’ Week. Nurses will be marching to Congress May 12 at the National Nurses March
in support of fair, realistic wages; including no caps; safe staffing patient ratios; no violence against healthcare workers; and changing the culture of the biases and discriminations in the nursing profession.